Frederik Engström: A driving force behind Sweden's space achievements
Frederik Engström has made outstanding contributions to European space activities, not only as ESA’s Director of Launchers when he was responsible for enhancements to Ariane-5, but also as President of the Swedish Space Corporation.
Engström was ESA Director of Launchers from 1 April 1994 until his retirement on 15 February 2001. He was responsible for developing ideas for new launchers, and for the launch and production facilities at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Before that, he directed ESA’s Columbus project from 1985 to 1994. As Europe’s largest single contribution to the ISS, the Columbus laboratory is due to be launched and permanently attached to the ISS in 2007.
Early years and studies point to space
On 14 August 1961, only 81 days after JF Kennedy's 'Moon speech', Sweden's first modest step into space was taken. From a forest clearing in northern Sweden, a tiny Arcas rocket was launched by a team gathered from their day jobs in universities, government agencies or companies. There were several students, and one of these was a young Frederik Engström.
Engström was born in Karlskrona, Sweden, in 1939. He studied physics, mathematics and astronomy at Stockholm University, where he obtained a masters degree in 1964 and a PhD in 1971. He started his space career with the Space Technology Group of the Swedish Committee for Space Research, where he was a project manager for sounding rocket launches at Kronogård, Sweden.
Between 1965 and 1970, he was an ESRO fellow at the Culham Laboratory in England and a Research Assistant at the Stockholm Observatory. In 1970 he joined Teleutredningar in Stockholm where he was also involved in space projects.
Collaboration and expansion at Esrange
In 1972, Engström was chosen to become the first president of the Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) on its formation. The SSC was at that time taking over the operation of the launch facilities at Esrange in Kiruna, Sweden, which until then been operated by ESRO. Under Engström’s direction, the activities at Esrange were expanded with international collaborations in many areas, especially in sounding rockets and Earth observation activities.
Here again, Engström was the main force behind a collaboration between Sweden and France using the SPOT satellite. This project led to the establishment of a separate company in Kiruna for remote sensing of Earth, Satellitbild.
During his term of office at SSC, he was behind the decisions to undertake the first Swedish Viking satellite project and later the Nordic Tele-X communications spacecraft. These proved to be very important for the development of the Swedish space industry and its success on the export market.
He was also a Board Member of the Kiruna Geophysical Institute, and it was largely due to his initiative that a daughter company of the Swedish Space Corporation, the Satellite Image Corporation, was set up in Kiruna in 1982.
Engström had much contact with ESA prior to his appointment as Director of Space Station and Platforms in 1985. From 1977 to 1979, he was Chairman of ESA’s Remote Sensing Programme Board and, from 1979 to 1985, he was the Swedish delegate to the Council.
In 2002, Engström was awarded the Confederation of European Aerospace Societies (CEAS) gold medal for lasting contributions to European space activities.